This past Sunday I ran my first road race and I FEEL SO ACCOMPLISHED.
I’ve never been much of a runner so I never pictured myself signing up for any sort of event that centered around the agonizing act of running. Ok I will admit running isn’t always AGONIZING, otherwise I would never do it. But in order to stay in shape and to maintain good health I actually do run at least once a week.
Running and I have such a love-hate relationship. I am usually eager to go for a run because I love exercising, so I skip out the door, blast some gnarly music and jog on my merry way. Then after about one minute of running I question why I thought this was a good idea. Then as time goes on and I get more and more tired I curse myself out because I am positive that running is never a good idea. Then around the last 2 minutes of my run I’m certain that I’m dying. Yay. It isn’t until the last thirty seconds or so of a run that I realize 1. I’m not dying 2. I’m actually kind of awesome for running x amount of miles at a decent pace 3. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (I’m back to where I started). Then I sprint to the end because I’m so pumped that the run is over, and that causes me to feel like I’m dying again when I’m done. But this time, dying is worth it because I just achieved a personal goal of finishing a run and I know my body will thank me for this later in life.
Yes, my thoughts are extremely dramatic during a run and I never get that “runner’s high” that everyone talks about. I am usually miserable whilst running but I never regret exercise, so I continue to go running. One of the perks of taking solo runs is that you are completely in control. Back in high school, when I would run for soccer, the pressure of teammates pushing you or a coach timing you made running pretty stressful. If you didn’t run a mile fast enough, there were always consequences. This sense of competition is necessary for sports, but running alone is refreshing because I don’t HAVE to run fast. I can slow to a walk when I’m tired, I can decide to run 2 miles instead of 3, basically I have the freedom to control my run. That’s not to say that I don’t push myself, but it’s nice not to have any external pressures judging you.
So a month ago, my aunt asked me to sign up for the Kittery Fire Association 5K alongside a few other family members. Having never participated in an organized road race, I was excited to try something new. I wouldn’t say I trained for this race, but signing up motivated me to at least time my runs and pay attention to my pace, which I’ve never done before. Timing my runs had never appealed to me; since I only run to get exercise I normally just run until I’m exhausted without measuring how far I went or what pace I maintained. But a few weeks before the race I started running 3.1 miles at least once a week and timing myself, just to sense my capabilities. I found I actually kind of enjoy the competitive feeling of trying to beat a certain time. I use the APP “Runkeeper”, which maps your route and measures your pace.
Come the morning of the run, the atmosphere was so exciting. The Kittery town center was packed with runners ranging from age 5 to mid-80s, and there was a broad spectrum of intensity; some serious runners sported sleek, expensive running gear and performed warm up stretches while others wore any old t-shirt and participated in carefree chatter with other non-serious runners. The perfect Maine weather consisted of high 60’s with a warming sun and a light breeze.
During the run, my aunt and I stuck together and maintained around a 9-mintute mile pace. I consider my ability to keep up with my aunt a huge accomplishment, even though she said that I was pushing her during the run. My aunt has been running pretty much her whole life and no matter what kind of shape she is in, I will always picture her as a fit, champion athlete. Keeping up with her makes me feel awesome.
Running through Kittery, Maine was scenic and refreshing. The small, seaside town was dotted with cute little local shops and beautiful, fresh flowers lined a good portion of the street. The last half mile or so resided on a consistent incline, which made the last leg of the race pretty difficult. I ended up finishing at 27:16 minutes, which is the fastest that I personally have recently run 3.1 miles. My aunt finished close behind me, and while waiting for the rest of our family to finish, we meandered into the fire station for FREE FOOD.
Seriously, who doesn’t love free food? I usually can never resist free food, but I never want to eat directly after running, so I opted for a fresh orange and lots of water. Honestly, I felt repulsed watching people stuff their faces with Dunkin Donuts and baked goods right after exercising. I don’t understand how people can stand to put crap into their bodies after a run, but there was a homemade pot of heavenly kale soup that I did enjoy later in the day.
My uncle finished pretty soon after my aunt and I, and the most impressive family member to complete the race was my grandmother who jogged across the finish line in just under 40 minutes. She started running at 80 years old, and now at 83 she has quite a few races under her belt. It amazes me how strong and determined my grandmother is, and I aspire to be that motivated when I’m in my 80s. My other aunt and my mom decided to walk the race, so we all cheered those two on as they strolled across the finish line. I am so happy I got to participate in the race with my family by my side; having a support group made the experience much more memorable.
While my whole family joined the race solely for the purpose of having fun and spending time together, we actually won a few awards. I won first place for my age group (who saw that coming?!), my aunt won second place for her age group, and my grandmother won second place for her age group (The only person who beat her was 11 years younger than her, so we all agree my grandmother kicked ass).
Overall, I had an amazing experience. Getting to spend time with my family was the best part, but physically pushing myself to run in an organized, timed setting was rewarding. Winning my age group was pretty cool too. YAY FOR EXERCISE!!